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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / June existing home sales
on: July 22, 2015, 01:57:37 PM
Existing Home Sales Increased 3.2% in June To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Existing home sales increased 3.2% in June to a 5.49 million annual rate, beating the consensus expected 5.40 million. Sales are up 9.6% versus a year ago.
Sales rose in all major regions of the country. The increase in sales in June was mostly due to single-family homes, but sales of condos/coops were also up in June.
The median price of an existing home rose to $236,400 in June (not seasonally adjusted) and is up 6.5% versus a year ago. Average prices rose 4.6% versus last year.
The months’ supply of existing homes (how long it would take to sell the entire inventory at the current sales rate) declined to 5.0 months in June from 5.1 in May, as a faster sales pace more than offset an increase in inventories.
Implications: The market for existing homes continued to heat up in June, hitting the fastest sales pace in over 8 years despite tight supply and record high prices. Sales of previously owned homes increased to a 5.49 million annual rate in June, beating consensus expectations and representing the fastest sales pace since February 2007. Sales were up in every major region of the country and should continue to trend upward. All-cash buyers accounted for 22% of sales in June, down from 32% a year ago. As a result, while total sales are up a healthy 9.6% from a year ago, non-cash sales (where the buyer uses a mortgage loan) are up a more robust 25.7%. So when all-cash sales eventually bottom out, total sales will start rising at a more rapid pace. The gain in mortgage-financed sales suggests a long-overdue thaw in lending. What’s interesting is that the percentage of buyers using credit has increased as the Fed tapered and then ended QE. Those predicting a housing crash without more QE were completely wrong. In fact, rising rates appear to be increasing the pace of sales, as buyers look to lock in terms before the looming fed rate hikes push borrowing costs higher. The details of today’s report were solid as well. Rising prices are bringing sellers to market (inventories rose for a fifth consecutive month in June), but supply hasn’t been able to keep pace with demand. In fact, the average time it took to sell a home in June decreased to 34 days from 40 in May, the fastest pace since recording began in 2011. Look for more inventory to come to market in the year ahead as “on-the-fence” sellers move to take advantage of higher prices. In other housing news this morning, the FHFA index, which measures prices for homes financed with conforming mortgages, increased 0.4% in May and was up 5.7% from a year ago.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson 1782
on: July 22, 2015, 11:07:55 AM
"We lay it down as a fundamental, that laws, to be just, must give a reciprocation of right; that, without this, they are mere arbitrary rules of conduct, founded in force, and not in conscience" —Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the state of Virginia, 1782
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US will help Iran protect its nukes
on: July 21, 2015, 12:09:58 PM
The agreement states: Co-operation…to strengthen Iran's ability to prevent, protect and respond to nuclear security threats to nuclear facilities and to protect against… sabotage.
By: Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu
“ObamaDeal” explicitly states that the United States and the other P5+1 powers can help Iran deflect and even “respond” to sabotage and nuclear threats to its nuclear sites.
The damming evidence that ObamaDeal directly allows Western powers to help Iran to protect its nuclear sites, and possibly even to stage a counter-attack on the source of the threat, is stated in Annex III of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Congress is reviewing the agreement and has the option to cancel America’s commitments under the deal.
You have to reach page 142 of the JCPOA until you reach “Annex III: Civil Nuclear Cooperation,” where Section “D 10 states that the P5+1 “and possibly other states are prepared to cooperate with Iran on the implementation of nuclear security guidelines and best practices. Cooperation in the following areas can be envisaged:
Co-operation in the form of training courses and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to prevent, protect and respond to nuclear security threats to nuclear facilities and systems as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems [boldface added];
Co-operation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage, as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems.
Emphasis should be placed on the word “respond.” It leaves open for interpretation the possibility that the United States and other P5 +1 countries can take action in the form of training and preparing Iran to stage a cyber attack or retaliation in the event of a third-party assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Israel is assumed to have been behind the Stuxnet cyber attacks on Iran’s centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility in 2010, which set back the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The agreement provides for assistance from the United States and the other P5+1 countries to thwart “sabotage” on Iran’s nuclear sites.
Al Jazeera reported earlier this year that President Barack Obama threatened Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in 2014 that he would order American fighter planes to down Israeli aircraft if the Israeli Air Force tried to carry out an attack, which reportedly was about to happen.
If (or when) it was discovered that Iran has cheated and is close to developing a nuclear weapon, the complicated review methods in the agreement could take several months or even a year before the United States and other P5+1 nations could prove their findings. In the meantime, Israel could be met by the United States as well as Iran as enemies in the event of an attempt to sabotage or attack the sites where Iran violated the agreement.
Even without the agreement, Iran is on the way to receiving from Russia, one of the P5+1 powers, S-300 anti-missile systems that could possibly deter any Israeli missile attack on Iranian nuclear sites, in which Russia has a heavy investment.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has argued that ObamaDeal not only does not prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but actually paves the way for a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic.
But the agreement does more than that. It helps make Iran impervious to an attack, whether from the air or from cyber space, and ObamaDeal also ratifies a possible Iranian counter-attack on Israel
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / June CPI: things are heating up , , ,
on: July 19, 2015, 03:46:31 PM
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.3% in June, matching consensus
expectations. The CPI is up 0.1% from a year ago.
“Cash” inflation (which excludes the government’s estimate of what
homeowners would charge themselves for rent) rose 0.3% in June, but is down 0.6% in
the past year.
Energy prices rose 1.7% in June, while food prices increased 0.3%. The
“core” CPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.2% in June, also
matching consensus expectations. Core prices are up 1.8% versus a year ago.
Real average hourly earnings – the cash earnings of all workers, adjusted for
inflation – declined 0.4% in June, but are up 1.7% in the past year. Real
weekly earnings are up 1.8% in the past year.
Implications: Consumer prices increased in the second quarter at the fastest pace
since 2011. Not just overall prices, driven by a rebound in energy prices, but
“core” prices as well, excluding both food and energy. At 3.5%, the
three-month annualized rate of overall inflation is well above the Federal
Reserve’s 2% long-term target. Even core prices are up at a 2.3% annual rate
in the past three months and the past six months as well. Either way, the recent
pace of inflation has been running above the Fed’s 2% target and should
eventually put pressure on the Fed to raise rates faster than the market expects.
Overall consumer prices rose 0.3% in June and showed positive year-over-year growth
for the first time in 2015. The lack of headline inflation in the past year is due
to energy prices, which rose 1.7% in June (following a 4.3% increase in May) but
remain down 15% from a year ago. Core prices increased 0.2% in June, are up 1.8% in
the past twelve months, and have risen at a 2.3% annualized since the start of the
year. In other words, core prices are gradually accelerating upward. With core
prices so close to the Fed’s two percent inflation target, policymakers should
remain concerned about future increases in inflation, even with overall inflation
near zero in the past twelve months. Core consumer prices in June were led higher by
housing. Owners’ equivalent rent, which makes up about ¼ of the CPI,
rose 0.4% in June, is up 2.9% in the past year, up at a 3.6% annual rate in the past
three months, and will be a key source of higher inflation in the year ahead. While
some scaremongers warn about deflation, others stoke fears of hyperinflation. But
the truth is that neither is a threat at present. What we have is low inflation that
is likely to gradually work its way upward over the next few years. On the earnings
front, “real” (inflation-adjusted) average hourly earnings declined 0.4%
in June, but are up a moderate 1.7% in the past year. Taken as a whole, recent
trends in both consumer and producer prices suggest that the long awaited rise in
inflation is starting to take shape, adding further credence to calls for a
September rate hike from the Fed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: July 19, 2015, 02:56:48 PM
"STOP IRAN" PROTEST IN TIMES SQUARE
Steven Emerson, Executive Director
July 19, 2015
"STOP IRAN" PROTEST IN TIMES SQUARE
WEDNESDAY, JULY 22, AT 5:30 p.m
July 19, 2015http://www.investigativeproject.org/4915/stop-iran-protest-in-times-square
Thousands of Americans Rally to Demand Congress Vote Down Iran Nuke Deal
July 22, 2015 -- New York City -- The "STOP IRAN RALLY," the largest, grassroots
bipartisan American protest against the deal granting Iran a fast track to a nuclear
bomb, will be held in Times Square on Wednesday, July 22, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Thousands of Americans from all faith traditions, political interests and
communities, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, registered Democrats and
Republicans, LGBT, Iranian-Americans, and others will demand that Congress vote down
the Iran deal.
Under the umbrella of the STOP IRAN RALLY COALITION, more than 100 organizations
spanning the nation's political, religious and social spectrum will participate. A
roster of preeminent experts from senior levels of the military, government,
academic, and media establishments will speak at the rally.
"Strip away the administration's rhetoric and it's clear this deal gives the Mullahs
-- the world's foremost sponsors of terrorism, $150 billion in return for
effectively nothing: no dismantlement of Iran's nuclear program; no anytime or
anywhere inspections; no eradication of Iran's ballistic missile program; no
maintenance of the arms embargo; and no halt to Iran's sponsorship of terror," said
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, STOP IRAN RALLY's co-organizer.
Wiesenfeld added, "Washington is prepared to give Iran virtually all that it needs
to get to the bomb. To release $150 billion to Iran will result in the expansion of
worldwide terror. New York Senator Charles Schumer has the votes as presumptive
leader to override this deal if he wants. To do anything less is cynical and
disgraceful, and the public will not be fooled this time. Americans will not stand
for another North Korea. If this deal is not stopped, New York voters will know whom
"The Administration uses scare tactics in falsely claiming that the alternative to
this deal is war," said Steve Emerson, Executive Director of The Investigative
Project on Terrorism and a speaker at the STOP IRAN RALLY. "This deal would actually
lead to more war, many more deaths of Americans and our allies and much more
"This is a bipartisan issue, not a political one," said Richard Allen, a local
activist leading the STOP IRAN RALLY volunteers. "Now, Congress must rise to the
occasion and expose evisceration of U.S. national security and pass a resolution of
disapproval. Congress must also override President Obama's threatened veto, and
return America's Iran policy to dealing from a position of strength rather than
appeasement. We are mobilizing nationwide to let our lawmakers know we will hold
each and every one of them to account for the consequences of this dangerous deal
being foisted on the American people."
SPEAKERS AT THE "STOP IRAN" RALLY WILL INCLUDE:
* James Woolsey, Former Director of the CIA and Chairman of the Foundation for
Defense of Democracies
* Gov. George Pataki, Former Three-Term Governor of New York
* Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan District Attorney from 1975 to 2009, and Of Counsel,
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
* Allen West, Former Congressman and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel
* Prof. Alan Dershowitz, Attorney and Professor at the Harvard School of Law
* Pete Hoekstra, Former U.S. Congressman and Chair of the House Intelligence Committee
* U.S. Navy Admiral James A. "Ace" Lyons, Former Commander in Chief of the U.S.
Pacific Fleet and Senior U.S. Military Representative to the United Nations
* General Paul E. Vallely, Former U.S. Army Major General and Chairman of Stand Up
* Mortimer Zuckerman, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of U.S. News & World Report and
the publisher of the New York Daily News and former Chairman of the Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
* John Batchelor, Radio Talk Host, WABC-AM
* Steven Emerson, Executive Director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism
* David Brog, Executive Director, Christians United for Israel
* Frank Gaffney, Founder of the Center for Security Policy
* Caroline Glick, Deputy Managing Editor of The Jerusalem Post
* Kasim Hafeez, Founder of "The Israel Campaign" and Christians United for Israel's
* Tony LoBianco, Actor and Activist
* Clare M. Lopez, Former CIA officer, Terrorism and Iran Expert at Center for
* Herbert I. London, President Emeritus of Hudson Institute and former Dean of New
* Colonel Richard Kemp, Former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan
* Genevieve Wood, Senior Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
"Whatever happened to the President's claim that 'No (Iran) deal is better than a
bad deal?' Well, this is a bad deal. Now is the time for the American Congress to
stand up and protect the security of the American people and our future generations.
This is a pivotal moment in American history. Will our leaders rise above politics
and demonstrate the courage to do what is right for our country?" -- Jeffrey
Wiesenfeld, co-organizer of the STOP IRAN RALLY
"The President publicly asserts that the U. S. 'will maintain our own sanctions
related to Iran's support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its
human rights violations.' In reality, this deal removes the most severe terrorist
sanctions in place against Iran for years; it removes the embargo on weapons sales
to Iran against the explicit warnings of our own Secretary of Defense and head of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff; it allows for Iran to continue developing its
intercontinental ballistic missile program that can only have one mission --
attaching nuclear warheads; it provides Iran with billions of unfrozen assets that
Iran will surely pour into worldwide terrorism as it has done for 30 years; and it
shamefully decouples any linkage to Iran's continuing imprisonment of an American
Marine and four other American civilians not to mention its brutal suppression and
execution of its own dissidents.
This deal would enable Iran to spend tens of billions of new dollars on its vast
state supported terrorist apparatus: from its Iranian Revolutionary Guards who have
been responsible for killing hundreds of Americans to supplying their Hezbollah
terrorist proxies with vast amounts of sophisticated weapons to threaten American
interest and allies throughout the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Latin America." --
Steve Emerson, Executive Director, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Speaker at
Stop Iran Rally
"This is a good deal for Iran. Not the American people. This deal abandons every red
line the administration said was essential for any acceptable deal to block all
pathways to an Iranian bomb. If Iran, the world's leading state sponsor of
terrorism, wants to be treated with 'respect,' let them earn it by agreeing to
robust spot inspections, ending their missile programs and proving to us that they
mean no harm." -- Richard Allen, Co-organizer, STOP IRAN RALLY
ABOUT STOP IRAN RALLY ORGANIZERS:
The STOP IRAN RALLY is coordinated by the STOP IRAN RALLY COALITION, a grassroots
movement of volunteer citizens, in partnership with more than 100 organizations
spanning the entire political, religious and social spectrum. More information can
be found at www.stopiranrally.org
. Follow updates about the rally on Twitter
@stopiranrally and #stopiranrally.
LOCATION AND TIME:
Wednesday, July 22, 2015 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Times Square, at 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue
MEDIA INQUIRIES AND INTERVIEWS CONTACT:
Eve Epstein, 516-343-0543516-343-0543; [email protected]
Sakura Amend, 917-355-3531917-355-3531; [email protected]
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rothstein: Why did Europe conquer the world?
on: July 19, 2015, 11:22:39 AM
Why Did Europe Conquer the World?
By Philip T. Hoffman
Princeton, 272 pages, $29.95
Such abstract formulations—mainly relegated to footnotes and appendices—make an appearance because Mr. Hoffman, who teaches at the California Institute of Technology, uses economic theory to scrutinize the supremacy of the West. He notes that scholars have ascribed Europe’s success to a variety of features: geographical and ecological advantages (Jared Diamond in “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” 1997); competitive markets and military rivalries ( Paul Kennedy in “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” 1987); a culture that stresses adaptability and a fierce defense of democracy ( Victor Davis Hanson in “Carnage and Culture,” 2001); a style of detached investigation and scientific inquiry ( David Landes in “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations,” 1998); and principles like private property and the rule of law ( Niall Ferguson in “Civilization: The West and the Rest,” 2011). Mr. Hoffman, finding many of their answers unsatisfactory, suggests something different: the West’s mastery of gunpowder.
This claim may seem strange. Gunpowder was discovered in China and was in wide use in the Ottoman Empire. Yet well before the Industrial Revolution, Mr. Hoffman argues, the West surpassed the war-making capacity of other societies by improving the accuracy, range and speed of its weaponry. Why? First, Mr. Hoffman says, because of political priorities. Today we expect leaders to deliver prosperity, security and peace, but in early modern Europe the belief was, as Machiavelli put it, that rulers “ought to have no object, thought, or profession but war.”
War was the main reason why taxes were levied. In the two centuries before 1750, between 40% and 80% of European government budgets went to the military. European tax rates were also significantly higher than those in other regions. In 1776, England’s per capita taxes (measured in grams of silver) were equivalent to about 180 grams, France’s to 61 grams and China’s to just 7 grams.
European nations also gained proficiency through experience, not least when fighting among themselves. Between 1550 and 1600, Mr. Hoffman says, the principal European powers were at war 71% of the time; from 1600 to 1650, 66% of the time. And because nearly all European battles used gunpowder technology—unlike, say, those in China, where nomadic tribes were routinely fought without such weaponry—the result was innovation and mastery: “learning by doing,” as Mr. Hoffman puts it.
If money and practice gave the West an edge, other factors played a role as well. Mr. Hoffman uses a “tournament model” of economic competition to examine the variables affecting military success and suggests that, for several centuries, European nations, fighting among themselves, steadily gained the mastery to overwhelm others. In this model, two powers vie for a prize (financial gain, land, glory). To attain it they must first raise taxes and build armies and an infrastructure. The real variations come when war breaks out. Rulers must mobilize fighters and prepare for battle; there might be different amounts of money spent but also different political costs to mobilization—say, in the political deals made or the taxes raised for war or the reactions of the populace. According to the model, the odds of winning are assumed to be proportional to the resources being mobilized: Spend more and you have a better chance of winning. The odds increase if your political costs are low—e.g., if there is little popular opposition. Both high resource use and low political costs were generally true in the West in centuries of internecine wars, which gave them distinctive advantages in world conquest.
The model is illuminating: A nation might refuse to fight, for example, if it were facing a powerful opponent, thus ceding the prize. Mr. Hoffman calls the result “peace”—but it is created by intimidation, accommodation or appeasement. War is more likely when nations are roughly equivalent than when one of them is immensely superior (the Pax Romana). The model can be made more sophisticated by incorporating the effects of innovation, which may lower costs and also increase fighting efficiency.
Through such analysis, Mr. Hoffman finds four conditions in early modern Europe that he finds nowhere else: (1) frequent wars between countries that have roughly the same size and financial power; (2) huge sums lavished on warfare along with low political costs; (3) the heavy use of gunpowder technology; and (4) few obstacles blocking innovation. Mr. Hoffman observes that European governments uniquely allowed their war technologies to be used for private expeditions. Entrepreneurial explorers as well as corporations like the Dutch East India Co. engaged in colonization, conquest and trade.
With all of this nurturing, gunpowder technology advanced rapidly. One rough measure: The relative price of pistols in England, between the mid-16th century and the early 18th, fell by a factor of six. Other countries couldn’t match the efficiency. In the 17th century, the prices of Chinese weapons were much higher than their equivalents in England. The “model makes clear,” Mr. Hoffman writes, “once and for all, the political and military conditions that distinguished Europe from the rest of the world.” And that gave them the ability to readily conquer foreign armies, none of which were remotely as deadly as the European forces.
Mr. Hoffman’s argument is both brilliant and eccentric: brilliant in the way it contributes to historical speculation, eccentric in its formalist reduction of a culture’s complexities. But look what kind of European order it conjures up: Here are a group of fierce, Spartan-like states warring with one another, battling over colonial holdings, trying to expand their terrain, perfecting their weaponry. Such a portrait actually resembles the familiar caricature of the West, in which the West is considered a military culture that achieved dominance through ruthless combat and acquisitiveness, resulting in centuries of imperialism, slavery and exploitation. And indeed, Mr. Hoffman concludes that the triumph of the West imposed overwhelmingly heavy costs on the populations of Europe and that outside of Europe “the damage done was immeasurably greater.”
The widespread acceptance of this general belief can now be seen in the West’s self-denigrating view of itself—in the confessions of guilt, gestures to make recompense, and shamefaced withdrawal from the exercise of power and self-interest. Such a perspective, though, is deeply flawed. Imperial desires, slavery and exploitation have been hallmarks of every powerful culture and are hardly unique to the West (more unique, in fact, is the West’s abolition of slavery). The presence of villainy (another universal) also explains nothing. Mr. Hoffman helps explain a certain kind of success but not a certain kind of civilization. And it’s not clear that the two can be so easily separated.
In fact, gunpowder advances may be not the cause of Western power but a reflection of it—the power of its ideas and modes of understanding. Innovation depends on a certain kind of ambition and a particular way of thinking; it doesn’t happen simply because there are few obstacles and many resources, as Mr. Hoffman’s theory suggests. Thus for millennia most nomadic tribes didn’t go beyond bow-and-arrow technologies. Building a better gun requires a grasp of physical principles and a certain flexibility of mind—being able to apply those principles in new ways. Innovation is thus in part a scientific enterprise and a product of the same impulses that shaped the Western Renaissance.
Similarly, the far-flung explorations that characterized early modern Europe were not undertaken just to attain power and riches; they reflected a desire to illuminate the unknown, to comprehend the universe and map its qualities, to discover not just novelties but fundamental principles. They involved a kind of nervy geographic universalism. This is one reason why the West might be the only culture in human history to undertake the systematic study and analysis of other cultures, discerning differences and commonalities. These impulses and their moral implications are more rare than the mastery of gunpowder—and more powerful.
—Mr. Rothstein is the Journal’s critic
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history
on: July 18, 2015, 03:52:49 PM
I hear it gets real nippy there for much of the year , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Witherspoon
on: July 17, 2015, 03:38:08 PM
"Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of
manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold
the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even
the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue." —John
Witherspoon, The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men, 1776
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sex change is NOT possible
on: July 17, 2015, 06:11:55 AM
Johns Hopkins Psychiatrist: It Is Starkly, Nakedly False That Sex Change Is Possible
By Paul McHugh | June 17, 2015 | 9:56 AM EDT
Bruce Jenner during the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics (left) and last April (right). (AP Photo)
The idea that one’s sex is a feeling, not a fact, has permeated our culture and is leaving casualties in its wake. Gender dysphoria should be treated with psychotherapy, not surgery.
For forty years as the University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School—twenty-six of which were also spent as Psychiatrist in Chief of Johns Hopkins Hospital—I’ve been studying people who claim to be transgender. Over that time, I’ve watched the phenomenon change and expand in remarkable ways.
A rare issue of a few men—both homosexual and heterosexual men, including some who sought sex-change surgery because they were erotically aroused by the thought or image of themselves as women—has spread to include women as well as men. Even young boys and girls have begun to present themselves as of the opposite sex. Over the last ten or fifteen years, this phenomenon has increased in prevalence, seemingly exponentially. Now, almost everyone has heard of or met such a person.
Publicity, especially from early examples such as “Christine” Jorgenson, “Jan” Morris, and “Renee” Richards, has promoted the idea that one’s biological sex is a choice, leading to widespread cultural acceptance of the concept. And, that idea, quickly accepted in the 1980s, has since run through the American public like a revelation or “meme” affecting much of our thought about sex.
The champions of this meme, encouraged by their alliance with the broader LGBT movement, claim that whether you are a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, is more of a disposition or feeling about yourself than a fact of nature. And, much like any other feeling, it can change at any time, and for all sorts of reasons. Therefore, no one could predict who would swap this fact of their makeup, nor could one justifiably criticize such a decision.
At Johns Hopkins, after pioneering sex-change surgery, we demonstrated that the practice brought no important benefits. As a result, we stopped offering that form of treatment in the 1970s. Our efforts, though, had little influence on the emergence of this new idea about sex, or upon the expansion of the number of “transgendered” among young and old.
Olympic Athlete Turned "Pin-Up" Girl
This history may clarify some aspects of the latest high-profile transgender claimant. Bruce Jenner, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion, is turning away from his titular identity as one of the “world’s greatest male athletes.” Jenner announced recently that he “identifies as a woman” and, with medical and surgical help, is busy reconstructing his physique.
I have not met or examined Jenner, but his behavior resembles that of some of the transgender males we have studied over the years. These men wanted to display themselves in sexy ways, wearing provocative female garb. More often than not, while claiming to be a woman in a man’s body, they declared themselves to be “lesbians” (attracted to other women). The photograph of the posed, corseted, breast-boosted Bruce Jenner (a man in his mid-sixties, but flaunting himself as if a “pin-up” girl in her twenties or thirties) on the cover of Vanity Fair suggests that he may fit the behavioral mold that Ray Blanchard has dubbed an expression of “autogynephilia”—from gynephilia (attracted to women) and auto (in the form of oneself).
The Emperor’s New Clothes
But the meme—that your sex is a feeling, not a biological fact, and can change at any time—marches on through our society. In a way, it’s reminiscent of the Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. In that tale, the Emperor, believing that he wore an outfit of special beauty imperceptible to the rude or uncultured, paraded naked through his town to the huzzahs of courtiers and citizens anxious about their reputations. Many onlookers to the contemporary transgender parade, knowing that a disfavored opinion is worse than bad taste today, similarly fear to identify it as a misapprehension.
FILE - In this June 19, 2014, file photo, Laverne Cox arrives at the Critics' Choice Television Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Thursday, June 19, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. President Barack Obama during his first year in office became the first chief executive to say "transgender" in a speech, the first to name transgender political appointees and the first to prohibit job bias against transgender government workers. He also signed hate crime legislation that represented the first federal civil rights protections for transgender people in U.S. history. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
I am ever trying to be the boy among the bystanders who points to what’s real. I do so not only because truth matters, but also because overlooked amid the hoopla—enhanced now by Bruce Jenner’s celebrity and Annie Leibovitz’s photography—stand many victims. Think, for example, of the parents whom no one—not doctors, schools, nor even churches—will help to rescue their children from these strange notions of being transgendered and the problematic lives these notions herald. These youngsters now far outnumber the Bruce Jenner type of transgender. Although they may be encouraged by his public reception, these children generally come to their ideas about their sex not through erotic interests but through a variety of youthful psychosocial conflicts and concerns.
First, though, let us address the basic assumption of the contemporary parade: the idea that exchange of one’s sex is possible. It, like the storied Emperor, is starkly, nakedly false. Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All (including Bruce Jenner) become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they “identify.” In that lies their problematic future.
When “the tumult and shouting dies,” it proves not easy nor wise to live in a counterfeit sexual garb. The most thorough follow-up of sex-reassigned people—extending over thirty years and conducted in Sweden, where the culture is strongly supportive of the transgendered—documents their lifelong mental unrest. Ten to fifteen years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to twenty times that of comparable peers.
How to Treat Gender Dysphoria
So how should we make sense of this matter today? As with any mental phenomenon, what’s crucial is noting its fundamental characteristic and then identifying the many ways in which that characteristic can manifest itself.
The central issue with all transgender subjects is one of assumption—the assumption that one’s sexual nature is misaligned with one’s biological sex. This problematic assumption comes about in several different ways, and these distinctions in its generation determine how to manage and treat it.
Based on the photographic evidence one might guess Bruce Jenner falls into the group of men who come to their disordered assumption through being sexually aroused by the image of themselves as women. He could have been treated for this misaligned arousal with psychotherapy and medication. Instead, he found his way to surgeons who worked him over as he wished. Others have already commented on his stereotypic caricature of women as decorative “babes” (“I look forward to wearing nail polish until it chips off,” he said to Diane Sawyer)—a view that understandably infuriates feminists—and his odd sense that only feelings, not facts, matter here.
For his sake, however, I do hope that he receives regular, attentive follow-up care, as his psychological serenity in the future is doubtful. Future men with similar feelings and intentions should be treated for those feelings rather than being encouraged to undergo bodily changes. Group therapies are now available for them.
Most young boys and girls who come seeking sex-reassignment are utterly different from Jenner. They have no erotic interest driving their quest. Rather, they come with psychosocial issues—conflicts over the prospects, expectations, and roles that they sense are attached to their given sex—and presume that sex-reassignment will ease or resolve them.
The grim fact is that most of these youngsters do not find therapists willing to assess and guide them in ways that permit them to work out their conflicts and correct their assumptions. Rather, they and their families find only “gender counselors” who encourage them in their sexual misassumptions.
Those with Gender Dysphoria Need Evidence-Based Care
There are several reasons for this absence of coherence in our mental health system. Important among them is the fact that both the state and federal governments are actively seeking to block any treatments that can be construed as challenging the assumptions and choices of transgendered youngsters. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama.
In two states, a doctor who would look into the psychological history of a transgendered boy or girl in search of a resolvable conflict could lose his or her license to practice medicine. By contrast, such a physician would not be penalized if he or she started such a patient on hormones that would block puberty and might stunt growth.
What is needed now is public clamor for coherent science—biological and therapeutic science—examining the real effects of these efforts to “support” transgendering. Although much is made of a rare “intersex” individual, no evidence supports the claim that people such as Bruce Jenner have a biological source for their transgender assumptions. Plenty of evidence demonstrates that with him and most others, transgendering is a psychological rather than a biological matter.
In fact, gender dysphoria—the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex—belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction. The treatment should strive to correct the false, problematic nature of the assumption and to resolve the psychosocial conflicts provoking it. With youngsters, this is best done in family therapy.
The larger issue is the meme itself. The idea that one’s sex is fluid and a matter open to choice runs unquestioned through our culture and is reflected everywhere in the media, the theater, the classroom, and in many medical clinics. It has taken on cult-like features: its own special lingo, internet chat rooms providing slick answers to new recruits, and clubs for easy access to dresses and styles supporting the sex change. It is doing much damage to families, adolescents, and children and should be confronted as an opinion without biological foundation wherever it emerges.
But gird your loins if you would confront this matter. Hell hath no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle.
Paul McHugh, MD, is University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is the author of “The Mind Has Mountains: Reflections on Society and Psychiatry.”